Congregations Come Together for Healing Following Teen Deaths

Faith leaders discuss kindness, building community


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Attendees at the interfaith gathering join hands

Bethany Rodgers

Representatives of six different congregations joined hands in Bethesda on Monday evening to seek healing after the recent deaths of some local teenagers.

About 40 people gathered at Congregation Beth El on Old Georgetown Road for the roughly hour-long interfaith service that included prayer, singing and a discussion about the importance of community. Saint Mark Presbyterian Church, Bethesda United Methodist Church, Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church, St. John’s Episcopal Church and Bethesda Presbyterian Church also sponsored the event.

Cindy Matsiko, who attends St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, said students at her school have been affected by the deaths of Jordana “Jojo” Greenberg, a sophomore at Walt Whitman High School, and Thomas “Tommy” Silva, a junior from Walter Johnson High School. Both died by suicide.

Over the weekend, another Walt Whitman student, Navid Nicholas Sepehri, was found dead in a wooded area in Bethesda. Police are still investigating the death, but the school’s principal told the community that initial information suggests it was accidental.

Even though Matsiko, 17, said many of her classmates didn’t know the teenagers, these deaths have caused them to reflect on the relationships around them.

A wide range of social, academic and extracurricular pressures can stir up anxiety for many teens, and Matsiko, who’s a leader in her youth group at Bradley Hills, said it’s important for people to show kindness and support one another.

Heidi Cohen, a clinical team leader at the Jewish Social Service Agency, spoke about the importance of dispelling the stigma around depression. Talking about suicide doesn’t put the idea of suicide in someone’s head, she said.

And Rabbi Greg Harris of Congregation Beth El spoke about how coming together can help a community heal from recent tragedy. He said the congregations that were involved in Monday’s service hope to plan future gatherings to build relationships and discuss issues of common concern.

Rabbi Greg Harris speaks to people attending the interfaith gathering on Monday. Credit: Bethany Rodgers.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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